Written by: Jen Dan
On his second album, Tompkins Park, San Francisco-based singer-songwriter Jack Symes proves he can tackle both intimate indie folk and grand troubadour anthems with casual ease.
His debut LP Songs For Moms proved he had the songwriting chops to stand out, but his latest effort puts the depth of his talent in the spotlight.
The 12 songs on Tompkins Park were created in a pre-pandemic world and were set to be played on stages like San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall for the first time last spring, but like many artists have experienced, the pandemic pulled the plug on those plans.
The resulting lockdowns, however, allowed Symes and his band to gather at his parents’ home in Los Angeles and rethink the arrangements they’d been experimenting with.
The recordings that came from this time display an attention to detail and production that Symes hadn’t shown before – dense plumes of reverb emanates his voice, muffled drum machines sputter and kick, and flourishes of saxophone and horns make appearances throughout the record.
It’s easy to imagine a packed audience shouting along to “Baby, My Baby” amid the giant cymbals crashing and the brass section sweeping it all away.
Inspired by a poem he wrote sitting on his parents’ roof, “I Need to Be Alone” is a slow-burn well worth the wait with delicate layers of ambient guitars building over its refrain.
Songs like “The Story of Jim Jones” forgo the dense instrumentation in favor of potent lyricism. “There’s more tension and release in story-telling than there is in just the description of feelings,” Symes explains.
“Prom Song” is another highlight; the perfect soundtrack for a slow dance with the slight twang in Symes voice able to pull up deep emotion from light-hearted moments.
On Tompkins Park Jack Symes wears his heart on his sleeve, inviting all listeners into his reflective to dynamic world.
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